Countering Objections to Space Settlement

Space settlement is becoming a mainstream topic because SpaceX is making space colonization economical and practical. The Falcon 9 has already significantly lowered the launch cost and is increasing what can be taken into space. The SpaceX Super Heavy Starship will be fully reusable. This could lower costs by 3-20 times from current costs per kilogram and can increase what can be taken into space by 1000 times.

There is a paper by Al Globus which counters objections to Space Settlement. Al Globus is editor in chief of the NSS Space Settlement Journal and has discovered a way to reduce the design mass of the first space settlements by two to three orders of magnitude. This is accomplished by locating settlements in equatorial low Earth orbit where there is relatively little radiation and rotating settlements (to achieve 1g at the hull) faster than earlier designs as most people adapt to rotation up to 4-6 rpm in a few days or less. He designed three orbital space settlements (Lewis One, Kalpana One, and Kalpana Two) and published over 45 papers in technical conferences and journals, won a Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, a NASA Software of the Year award, and a NASA Public Service Medal.

There are two of the objections and counters below. There is more in the Al Globus paper.

Why settle space?
Talking point: To survive and thrive.

Someday the Earth will become uninhabitable. Before then life must move off the planet or become extinct. While inevitable, this could be billions of years in the future. Much more near term threats include climate change, major asteroid hits, supervolcano eruptions, nuclear war, pandemic, nearby supernova, and technology run amok many of which could happen at any time.

Space capabilities can reduce some of these threats. For example, spy satellites have played an important role in avoiding nuclear war thus far. Space settlement can prevent asteroid hits as an extensive space civilization would likely monitor all asteroids and comets as a potential source of materials for free space settlements and divert any objects heading towards Earth. Special purpose space settlements for developing potentially dangerous technologies can improve safety when used as laboratories isolated from the rest of humanity by hundreds of kilometers of vacuum and radiation.
In addition, in the event of a planet wide disaster not only might billions of people die, but recovery would be difficult since the whole planet is affected. If an extensive branch of our civilization is in space before any of these threats manifest, the unaffected space settlements can provide aid up to and including reseeding Earth.

Objection: Space settlement uses money that could be better spent on housing, food, medical care, etc.

Talking point 1: Most resources should and do go to today’s human needs, but a small fraction should be our seed corn, to be spent on the future.

Mature space activities pay for themselves and settlement can do the same. The classic example is communication satellites, which are the single largest arena of commercial space development. Comsats have earned profits for decades, paying back in taxes the government money spent to help them develop many
times over. Earth resources satellites can also be quite profitable in addition to their vital role in understanding Earth’s environment. Location and navigation satellites enable a thriving economy in ground devices, such as smartphones, that use the government owned and operated space GPS (Global Positioning System) to help people get to their desired location.

SOURCES- Al Globus
Written By Brian Wang,

94 thoughts on “Countering Objections to Space Settlement”

  1. Yeah, the problem with those Marxist ideas is that even Elon Musk's wealth (which is not cash, but mostly tied up in his companies), would just be enough for a one time 500 USD payment for every American. Not really a lot of money, when you look at it that way.

  2. Once Starlink is fully operational, SpaceX could have over 500 billion in revenue, annually. If Starship launches will really be as cheap as envisioned, they send a lot of mass to Mars with that money and/or they could afford paying about a million people to work there for 500k/year pay.

  3. Greens won’t be happy until they cut off our opposable thumbs and shove us back in caves. I think doctors and greens and working together against us.

  4. Interesting.

    Up to Victorian era equivalent, windmills and watermills can provide all their energy needs. They won't be doing much chemistry, either. After that, they may still be able to use coal. There's a bunch that we haven't touched, and probably won't be touching as we're moving away it (unless we decide to make graphene etc out of it – but then they should have a bunch of that lying around). It may not be as good quality as we had in the beginning, but should still be usable. And they can initially make charcoal from wood (the forests should regrow by then). They can also build up hydro.

    Scaling up chemistry could get a little tricky, but they should at least be able to make all the major acids, hydroxides (bases), chlorides, carbonates, alcohols (solvents), bio-oils and fats, oxygen, nitrogen. They should be able to make hydrogen, syngas, and some aromatics from coal and charcoal, but they can also use hydroelectricity to split water (not very efficient, but does the job).

    Phosphorus and potassium might be difficult, but worst case they can use bio sources (e.g. phosphorus compounds are made via hydroxyapatite, basically bone). But there should still be enough P and K minerals. Catalysts and other specialty chemicals depend on what deposits remain and what they can get from our landfills and cities. It may take more effort, but they should be able to manage.

    Once their industry is going, they can eventually tap into the more difficult oil & gas, nuclear, etc.

  5. I did the math a while ago, and I can't quite remember it, but IIRC a single large skyscraper has more high quality steel in it than any of the ancient civilisations used, TOTAL, up until Rome and the Han Dynasty.

    Even those two vast empires were still only chewing up the equivalent of 1 skyscraper per decade or so at their absolute peak.

    In a million years from now, the rubble pile ex-cities of man will be able to supply more super high quality iron oxide ready for smelting (already with ideal alloying elements), not to mention some stainless steel in ready to forge states, aluminium, copper oxide (also super pure) super pure silica etc. etc. than humans had available up until the victorian era.

    Fossil fuels are the only issue.

  6. This is the second objection raised in the article you are replying to. Did you not read it before commenting?

  7. Good point about the "easy to domesticate". Horses probably wouldn't look all that different from the wild horses we had to deal with. The domesticated varieties will interbreed back to a wild type. Cattle, sheep, goats, probably not that different from their wild cousins either. But the sheep might still produce more wool, and the cows more milk than the original wild ones.

    I wonder what will happen to the chickens. Will they retain their larger size and quality eggs?

    For the metals, aluminum may indeed be the single biggest clue that something other than natural processes was involved. It's self-passivating, so barring major mechanical churn, it should survive mostly pure and easy to work with (but bent and compressed beyond recognition – no window profiles, probably).

    edit: A few profiles might survive if they end up in a relative void between other wreckage. And as it happens, those big concentrations of pure aluminum and other stuff would "just happen" to almost always be next to the biggest concentrations of human fossils (due to our burial grounds located there).

    See my reply to "So Over It" for some more thoughts.

  8. Homo sapiens have used up most of the cheap and easily accessible energy and mineral resources

    Wind and hydro are the easiest (indeed those are the first energy sources we harnessed) and will remain available. Geothermal, nuclear, and solar will also remain, though I agree they're more difficult. They may indeed have some trouble with oil & gas. There are still large reserves we haven't used up, but most of them aren't easy ones to get at. There is also still a bunch of coal, which we largely moved away from.

    Much of the minerals we used up are still in our landfills – in some cases more concentrated and more pure than we had them (esp copper, aluminum, and steel), but often more mixed up with a bunch of other things. There are also metals and other minerals extractable from sea water and the ocean floor, which we haven't touched yet. Technically challenging, I agree, but available.

    Carbon (more accurately, CHON) is abundant. For example in limestone. That alone can do a bunch of useful stuff, including supermaterials (though not easily). We ourselves may be replacing metals with CHON in the not-so-far future.

    So it may take them a bit more time and effort, but everything they need is still there. A couple extra millenia of technological development is nothing compared to the few million years of evolution.

    Where they may have some trouble is chemistry, but coal is still there, volcanic geochemicals are still there, and biological sources of chemicals are still there.

  9. Doesn't matter. Homo sapiens have used up most of the cheap and easily accessible energy and mineral resources to develop an industrial civilization capable of producing the technology needed for spaceflight. Plate tectonics etc. might create new vast reserves of cheap fossil fuels and concentrated ore deposits for future intelligent tool-using species but that will take many hundreds of millions of years, by which the Earth will have passed the point of no return climatewise. So, as species go, we are IT. Earth's one and only hope.

  10. In evolutionary terms, this moment right now is the equivalent of the first life forms venturing onto dry land and bringing their water with them (at first). Then they evolved to use air for oxygen and there was an explosion of diversity. Same thing will happen as mankind and other lifeforms move into space with them. Intelligent life will sweep across the galaxy and diversify incredibly fast due to biotechnology and real 'intelligent design'. The speed of light is not a barrier to stopping this. In the far future, our decedents will venture into the cold vacuum without spacesuits. Planets and moons like Mars, Luna and Titan will be no problem. The changes coming are incomprehensible to us now as we merge with our technology, as a snail with a shell is to bacteria or a human is to an ant.

    Musk knows this and wants to accelerate it, before someone does something stupid with nuclear weapons or an asteroid comes, hence the City on Mars.

    For those that want to stay in the ocean, that's fine. But don't hold back those that want to go on land.

  11. A neo-Orangutan trying to develop civilisation 1 million years after humans vanished in the great vaccination error would definitely have all the domesticated plants and animals gone back to wild states again.

    But they would find that "easy to domesticate" species are uniformly spread over the whole globe. Neo-cows. Neo-horses. Neo-sheep. Neo-wheat, rice, maize, sugarcane, cotton….

    Indeed any orangu-Darwin would have their work cut out for them unless they allowed for a big slab of "intelligent design" in the natural world they saw.

    Natural resources would be an interesting one. The large raw deposits of coal, oil, gas etc would be rare and deep by the standards of what we had. But the remains of old human cities would be the source of the cleanest, most high quality iron, copper, aluminium, silica etc. that any miner could dream of.

    Can you imagine trying to develop an iron age when slabs of pre-refined stainless steel can be dug out of the ground, ready to forge?

    This is assuming that nothing remains in a good enough state to actually copy the technology itself.

  12. My prediction about the future of Spacex. In 5-10 years I expect SpaceX's enemies to persuade Congress that it is a monopoly and that it needs to be broken up.

    This is what happened to United Air Lines, Inc. in 1934 it was broken up into Boeing, United Technologies and United Airlines. Aircraft builders couldn't also run airlines. Once Starship is mature, SpaceX will be separated into Spaceship builder and Space Liner companies. That way, other companies can get their hands their own Starships. I'm sure the Spaceforce will want it's own too.

  13. Errr….?
    If Earth's complex life and sentience get safeguarded, then you are in that protected group. So you get the benefit of being safeguarded.

    Unless you're claiming not to be complex, alive, sentient and/or an Earthling?

  14. Any attempt to redefine "police" as "military" runs into ALL sorts of issues.

    From the Posse Comitatus rule in the USA to the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

  15. Disagree. Way too many people now find that statement palatable or even desirable. Neo-Marxism is mainstream now. No dearth of people directly preaching about Musk's misplaced spending goals.

  16. Why should it? It also doesn't mention the lack of diversity (skin colour and sexual orientation) in your family. Maybe cancel the site and stay away.

  17. Absolutely. Preaching to Elon or Bezos what they should or shouldn't do with "their" money is outrageous. If you care about a cause, work on it, instead of sitting in your air conditioned lounge tweeting about clean water from an iPhone.

  18. Warming ocean alone increases acidity, so SRM geoengineering will help reduce that problem. Also overturning and so carbon uptake is reduced. SRM is solution with probably lower risk than doing nothing considering volcanic history, and is probably 100x to 1000x less expensive than oil industry hyped carbon removal. The carbon x prize will reveal more being scrutinized by unbiased experts.

  19. People who do not believe in colonizing space should not go to space as a colonist. People who believe there is no money to be made in space should not invest in space. In neither case should these views limit the rights of others to do either or both.

  20. Ocean acidification is at least as big a problem as warming, from the CO2 being dumped into the atmosphere. So the only geoengineering solutions worth looking at are those that remove CO2 from the atmosphere & ocean. Of course building lots of non-fossil energy, mostly nuclear, is essential so the amount of geoengineering to be done is less extreme & we have the energy to do that CO2 removal.

  21. Space!  

    52 years since we landed on Luna. (Jul 1969)
    49 years since we quit her. (Dec 1972)
    35 years since Mir (Feb 1986 – Mar 2001)
    22 years since International Space Station. (Nov 1998 – current)

    We've done planetary flybys of every planet. We've landed on Mars, Venus, Titan. We've repeatedly done Luna, some asteroids; we've imaged comet nuclei, we've pushed our space snails into the outer regions of the Solar System (Voyager), and to stupid-close distance from Sol herself.  

    Pretty dâhmned amazing, sez I.
    Especially since I've lived thru the whole thing.

    So now the Elon-o-sphere Club has re-usable first stages. 

    Understand, I'm not really pîssing on Elon's parade.  
    The achievement is eminently laudable, and as Our Good Brian waxes eloquent about, the technology WILL be transformational. 

    But a 'star' ship, it ain't. 
    It is no more able to transit to the stars, as a snail is to scale Mt. Everest.  
    Maybe a better analogy, a fish. 

    Point I'm poorly making is this: the 1940s (actually before) leading up to the Apollo program had endless 'SciFi' publications, popular news articles, books, treatises, studied papers, research institutes … all painting rather grandiose pictures (literally!) of the Spacey Future of Mankind. 

    It is well worth looking back, to see our foolishness. 
    And remember, it is LITTLE different today.
    The pictures. The images. The sales job.

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  22. We're drifting into agreement again. Lunar mass drivers should be an early investment.

  23. "at present (around $10,000/kg) launch prices"

    If Starship succeeds at getting launch prices to $50/kg, as SpaceX is projecting, things might look a little different.

  24. Some of us climate change people are big fans of space, too. Elon Musk is the most obvious example.

  25. On 1st hunch, I'd argue that the 2nd round could have it easier then we did – a bunch of domesticated plants available now that we didn't have when we started. But on 2nd thought, the oldest stone tools discovered so far are 3.3 million years old. The neolithic revolution (transition to farming) was only about 10000 years ago. So it took us upwards of 3 million years to go from early stone age to agriculture. That's enough time to reset everything. The domesticated plants would become wild again, as will the rest of the biosphere, the climate would shift several times, there'd likely be at least one or two ice ages, etc.

  26. Yes, realistically, we're pretty hard to eliminate at this stage. If something takes us down, it's likely to take a big chunk of the biosphere along with us.

    But the other scenario where we suddenly "disappear" while leaving the biosphere intact, is if we leave on our own in some form. Maybe we all move to O'Neill colonies in a few thousand years, or we retreat to 3D cities and make all our food in factories (a few-km-high 3D cities could comfortably house all our population over a relatively small land footprint – it's somewhat similar to O'Neill colonies, but down on the surface), or we discard our biological bodies and retreat to virtual space, or we simply declare large parts of the Earth as nature preserves. Any scenario where we leave big chunks of the biosphere alone for several million years.

    I've pointed out before that once a habitable planet matures, it could churn out intelligent species at a fairly rapid rate. Not unlike human mothers: 20 years to mature, but once they do, they can give birth every year or two.

    Even in the case of a larger extinction event, we went from dino extinction to space age in 65 million years – far shorter than the billion or so that Earth still has, and certainly much shorter than the ~4.5 Ba from formation to dino extinction.

  27. Notice, Next Big Future doesn't mention the objection that we should solve our problems here on Earth first.

  28. The Vikings did manage to settle and colonise places from Russia to Normandy, England and Ireland. Not to mention Iceland and Greenland which are the most relevant. I think they had a fairly established colonisation and/or conquest part of their culture. (Which was also Catholic, like the Iberians.)

    More to the point, I think, is that the Spanish landed at rich, tropical islands ideal for growing high return crops like sugar. And then they found established, agricultural civilisations with vast stores of silver and gold, but far inferior military technology.

    If the Vikings had landed and found themselves looking at the Newfoundlandian equivalents of the Aztec empire then things would have gone very differently.

    Remember that while the farming colonisation of the Caribbean was a Spanish national project, organised by a nation state, the conquest of Mexico was by a rogue individual going off on his own with a band of basically pirates. The sort of thing the vikings were famous for.

    And it certainly didn't hurt that the Spanish had ship technology that allowed both travel and heavy cargo transport to a level that even the 1400 AD viking ships couldn't achieve. Even if you could grow sugar easily in Greenland (say, some sort of sugar walrus) then I don't know that it would be worthwhile shipping back to Europe by longboat.

  29. Ignore the humans, get robots doing Space Solar, and then the profit is more, in that humans are expensive and robots will do something useful, what an idea! Robots can then build habs for humans, but only self paying tourists should be there at first, other than the hundreds working a big project, Space Solar. How can Space help the Earth? Productivity leads to profit. Is the surface of a planet the right place to be productive?

  30. The question is as to an expanding tech civ, so that is why such things as sunlight/energy, resources, micr0g, vacuum, *space*(volume), etc are examples of things where planet surface is NOT the right place. Of course the "the right place" can change if the thing being done changes. What is so startling about O'Neill (spoiler!) is that there is no question as to the answer to his actual question. One could easily imagine that there are three basic possibilities, Earth clearly better, Space best, or both about the same. We know about Earth, even have assumptions built in about it. We know no such about O'Neill Tsio or Bernal stuff, so even if they are *same* opportunity, we should rush to Space simply because we are not there, and it is as good as Earth. But O'Neill is hands down winner over planet surface. Azimov was exact in his use of the word "chauvinism" for the planet centric world view, so to speak. Unquestioned assumptions, disbelief at the obvious.

  31. Here is where we are with regard to space radiation:,shielding%20could%20counter%20such%20too.
    "None of these strategies currently provide a method of protection that would be known to be sufficient[56] while conforming to likely limitations on the mass of the payload at present (around $10,000/kg) launch prices. Scientists such as University of Chicago professor emeritus Eugene Parker are not optimistic it can be solved anytime soon.[56] For passive mass shielding, the required amount could be too heavy to be affordably lifted into space without changes in economics (like hypothetical non-rocket spacelaunch or usage of extraterrestrial resources) — many hundreds of metric tons for a reasonably-sized crew compartment. For instance, a NASA design study for an ambitious large space station envisioned 4 metric tons per square meter of shielding to drop radiation exposure to 2.5 mSv annually (± a factor of 2 uncertainty), less than the tens of milli sieverts or more in some populated high natural background radiation areas on Earth, but the sheer mass for that level of mitigation was considered practical only because it involved first building a lunar mass driver to launch material.[48]
    Several active shielding methods have been considered that might be less massive than passive shielding, but they remain speculative."

  32. "It's our moral obligation to safeguard Earth's complex life and sentience and make it grow and prosper beyond a single planet"

    That feels good, but how do I benefit from all that morally obligated expense you expect NASA to spend on SpaceX?
    What's in it for me?
    Big government!
    The free markets will decide if safeguarding Earth's complex life and sentience and making it grow and prosper beyond a single planet is important, government cant pick winners and losers.
    etc etc

  33. You can have too many cooks in one kitchen, but you don't get too many independent cooks in independent kitchens and cafes and restaurants in one city. Well not until the city is completely saturated, and "space" is a very large place.

  34. Society and cultural context matter. The Spaniards had a whole lot more social constructs in their own group and besides it (e.g. the Catholic Church, other kingdoms) motivating them to make a profit from any conquered new territories, and a desire of expansion of their religion and culture upon others so dominated, while the Vikings probably enjoyed a little looting and killing, but weren't thinking about making those places part of their Sacred Empire for their King and God.

    What about us and space? I think we really need to find ways to make this whole space settlement thing profitable, because that's our gist. Whatever produces money and new property has a future in our world.

  35. I like your vision, but disagree with the wild west-like explosion being a bad thing.

    These periods are rare and to be treasured. It's at these very moments when new societies emerge and form themselves before becoming too calcified by norms and regulation.

    Don't worry: human groups always tend to create and impose red tape and rules upon themselves. It won't be long before a whole set of rules emerges and slows down any change.

    By that time, the frontier would be in Mars, the asteroids and beyond. As long as the non conformists of humanity can find a frontier, humanity in general will be fine.

  36. At my most pessimistic, I remember that there is no physics that says that the Scandinavians couldn't have settled the Americas by going over the top of the Atlantic via Iceland and Greenland.
    But, despite voyaging for centuries, they never had the sustainable return on resources invested to achieve more than a handful of freezing settlements that couldn't survive a turn in the weather and/or lack of continual support from home.

  37. Yes, but as you look at the groups more and more distant from humans, the chances of them repeating, or at least parallelling, our development shrinks from unlikely to very remote to vanishing.
    A capuchin monkey may be barely able to make stone flake cutting edges, but corvids or cephalopods have a long way to go to even reach that stage.

  38. "…Talking point 1: Most resources should and do go to today’s human needs…" not convincedthat we are zero-sum. More for everyone if we tech-up.

  39. ooh 1000s. Methinks a nice batch of 200 in regular rotation by 2060 would be quite admirable.

  40. To be fair, they were throwing their toys out of the crib about government programs as far back as Apollo. They have been consistent on this.

  41. agreed. a vague concept – envisioning the claim-jumping, lawlessness, marauding space bandits, corrupt orbital sheriff… how much is too much? what is the bottleneck? – what could go wrong… there is no mission, goal or objective so idiotproof that it cannot somehow be ruined by having 'too many cooks in the kitchen' – but perhaps that line is so far off and above as to be inconceivable to us mere Starship slack-jawed watchers….

  42. Once again though, those ego trip businesses aren't happening in space. They are happening on Earth.

    One day, hopefully this decade, there will be people indulging in ego trip businesses in space.

  43. Their argument falls to the water when you change it to "E. Musk's and J. Bezos' money would be better off taken by force and used for whatever we see fit, like giving handouts to thankful beggars who vote".

    But they don't use it because it sounds bad except for the most fanatic Marxists.

  44. One could argue that NOT having a

    wild-west explosion without order – with every private space enterprise, pseudo-1st-world nation, and over-funded space contractor launching chunks of kit into orbit

    would actually be the risky option.

    A huge variety of different technologies, organisational structures, funding sources… that gives you a robust system with very few chances of it all collapsing.

    It is the slow, controlled, planned out program of logically designed steps that can fall over at a single launch explosion or government change or political movement.

  45. many clades can support a larger frontal cortex – cerrebelum – sea mammals, amhibio-lizards, cave-dwelling mammals… all about a remote and protected ecosystem that survives with small sub-group..

  46. You have to distinguish between the sort of low energy radiation you get on the surface of the Earth, which is only capable of very localized damage, essentially busting up a molecule or two at a time, and high energy cosmic rays. We do indeed have good recovery mechanisms for low energy radiation.

    When a cosmic ray, a naked nucleus with a high charge traveling at relativistic velocity, passes though your body, it doesn't just bust up a molecule or two, it burns a path right through your body, outright killing a large percentage of the cells it passes through. And that's the best case scenario, where it doesn't hit an atomic nucleus and create a particle shower inside your body, like a tiny nuclear explosion

    This is bad enough for most of your body, but the damage to the CNS is largely irreversible and cumulative. You're looking at losing 1-2 percent of your brain cells a year, perhaps more. Loss of non-replicating brain cells, and cells responsible for long-range connectivity in your CNS, gradually degrades your nervous system.

    The hit from traveling to Mars isn't terribly bad, might accelerate senility by a few years. But you're sure not going to be making multiple trips if you value your IQ, and would want to minimize total lifetime exposure.

    On the bright side, cosmic rays aren't much of a cancer risk, a cell has to survive to turn cancerous.

  47. maybe china/ india starship knockoffs to get to 1000s per week – if they can handle the 1-in-10 losses. news black-outs??

  48. agreed. many, many partners. tourisms. cults. make the moon vacations and inhabitable LEO hotels work for short-termers.

  49. waitlist in 30 years for a $250k moon week? – many, many 10k-s.
    best bet for a 180 minute LEO for $50k.

  50. forget not the most monumental business in space – Ego. Many visionaries envision themselves, their followers, their brand, and their legacy in space.

  51. Usually if you stay at a small scale it is a major problem but as you scale up the size of space habitats things like radiation stops being a problem think meter thick walls. Also look at the level of risk people are willing to endure it may not be that major a impediment to colonization. Also low level radiation may not be that bad one example of this is the city of Ramsar in Iran the most naturally radioactive city in the world 50 times above normal background radiation yet the people living there seem to have no apparent health effects. The no threshold model for radiation is deeply flawed.

  52. yeah, i'm not convinced the actual numbers are known – even part-trillionaire Musk and his SNL skit attention may not accomplish alone – consortium required – meaning dilution of the dream. More richie momentum and eventual space-based resources required. Musk should've acquired Deep Space Ind., for their exploitation-bots to grab a NEO to fuel and repair his Starship orbital taxi service.

  53. I just want to get a week on the moon for $250k-ish in the next 30 years, before I am too old. Make it happen

  54. I'm pretty sure that centrifugal force is biologically indistinguishable from gravity for low enough rotation rates, or there's something drastically wrong with our physics. And simple matter, regolith, say, works just fine for radiation shielding, and scales well for larger colonies.

    Sadly, zero G balloons in space don't look very survivable, gravity might be a solvable problem, but the long term effects of radiation, (As opposed to the acute ones.) seem to be built into our fundamental biology, and would require some serious reengineering to expunge.

  55. as with all things, it will probably take heroic private funding initiatives, loosening of regulation and licensing of launches, public acceptance of the risk (and subsequent losses), small country involvements, and a cultural desire to participate/spectate, go to school for, and pay into some kind of industry to get levels of launches to 1,000s into space per rotation between orbit and the moon in the next 30 to 50+ years.

  56. Why assume there's "a" right place, rather than a plethora of "right places" depending on exactly what you're up to?

  57. Not sure that it is important to 'settle' Space as it is to just create an economically-sustainable variety of space experiences with the possibility of a quick-expansion (i.e. 10,000 inflatable habs or insta-Moon-warren of 5k) and eventual jump-off development, late century. Grad students that can go to the Moon, orbit, or in between. Rich tourists can do their once-in-a-lifetime Moon week. Some artificial gravity enthusiasts can establish a multi-day experience on a disc, donut, or rotating dumbell. A cis-lunar population of a few 10,000s at a time by after mid-century on weekly rotations. Tech developments increase. Extra-solar craft designs are developed. A few outposts at venus upper atmosphere, mars orbit, and the inner belt are consistently inhabited. Not sure what the 'sustainable' rate of outward expansion is, but a wild-west explosion without order – with every private space enterprise, pseudo-1st-world nation, and over-funded space contractor launching chunks of kit into orbit, must come at some elevated risk. Also, I tend to close my pocketbook when people say we have a moral obligation to support launches and get out there. Supply/ demand and increased opportunity – privately with occasional public initiatives.

  58. No, that doesn't really follow; The Space Treaty, (Hack, ptui!) forbids military action, not police action.

  59. " the last 170 years of temperature increase from the optimum"

    I'm vaguely curious how this optimum was determined. Surely you wouldn't have done anything so silly as simply assuming the temperature was optimum before significant anthropic climate change. So I'll be interested in your objective criteria.

  60. Few people will want to live at space settlements (caves). However industrializing the moon with robots is the best way to build the safest solar geoengineering as a shade at L1 Lagrange Point to undue the last 170 years of temperature increase from the optimum, and prevent a runaway climate that will kill billions before it stabilizes at a much lower population habitable point. Due to the thermal inertia of the oceans, the melting arctic carbon methane bomb will require a century of solar geoengineering to stabilize. We are already dangerously late to start the SRM process and may have to start with stratospheric SRM before the L1 SRM can be built, then switch over. No one will care about the industrial pollution on the moon, so it's better to robotically industrialize the moon instead of Earth.

  61. Physically sound or not, nothing was put to test, not sure that we have a full feasible solution to space radiation, and you do need to test to create such a big program, till then, we don't even know if we have counted for all health parameters, nothing can be said for sure. And if you look at it soberly, the Musk new rocket may not be much cheaper than the old one if you look at it from the design improvements point of view and since he sells his launches to maximize profit at current market conditions not at the most competitive price that a mature market can squeeze again, nothing can be said for sure.

  62. I'm not one to buy into the whole "Earth will be uninhabitable" thing. But I do see the value of space exploration for the point of gaining resources. There's a lot out there.

    I think these colonies and habitats will be practical mainly for the point of resource acquisition. The Moon, Ceres, the asteroid belt, etc.
    I don't think we'll ever truly make another Earth. The Earth is just too perfectly suited to life.

    And if we ever get hyperdrive figured out, there are other solar systems out there. Maybe some fun stuff between the stars too. We should be mining all of it.

  63. "Objection: Space settlement uses money that could be better spent on housing, food, medical care, etc." Yes. I come against that one a lot. Fact is that most money on Earth is used for food, housing, medical care, etc, so the argument in essence is moot. Nevertheless, the space sector activity presents itself as an easily interpretable bullet point, while the total sum of subsidies for housing, food, etc., which is much larger, are spread over many different initiatives and laws. We are already spending almost all money on solving the problems of this world.

  64. "Besides anything that wipe us out probably wouldn't let Earth's biosphere in a good shape either. "

    Short of a highly specific bio-warfare agent, anything that would take us out on Earth would hardly leave any higher lifeforms at all. Certainly marginal populations like the great apes would not survive the sort of event that would be needed to render humans extinct.

  65. It won't be long before Mars Musk-topia needs a police force, because humans aren't all inclined to respect other people's life and property without some threat of force.

    It's just the way things are. So yes, there will be objections to that. What the USA chooses to do about it, it's another matter. These space treaties aren't like Antarctica ones, because here on Earth anyone with a stake can send a warship to challenge a territorial claim, while on Mars, very few could.

    And I doubt anyone will start a war over a god forsaken plot of lunar or Martian land. So, police forces without weapons of war will probably get a pass.

  66. This is my new favorite question for the climate change people and anti natalists. They are always quite ready to tell others how to live and breed. When you ask if you can breed and grow outside the bounds of Earth it really seems to short-circuit their righteous dictatorial diatribes.

  67. The current Space Treaty forbids military bases on planet bodies. So, we have to do things in Space or the local surface police will be deemed *military* and on and on. What the practical effect is, not sure there is same interest in Antarctica as Space. A good reason to grab a roid.

  68. Antarctica isn't colonized yet due to a political stalemate and a so far satisfactory entente from the geopolitical players.

    If someone had emerged as a clear owner of it, I'm sure it would be much more populated and with economic activity by now.

  69. I said ' probably'.

    Nevertheless I think betting on other species to repeat the random events that allowed us to gain our humanity and potential space faring abilities isn't a good bet.

    Besides anything that wipes us out probably wouldn't let Earth's biosphere in a good shape either.

    But we know we can do it now.

  70. Goodall observed neurosis in chimps, correctly stating the cause as early trauma. It is *living* neurosis/repression that distinguishes humans. We monkey see/do thru the generations in such a way that our patterns of birth procedure and infant treatment involuntarily and unconsciously evolve to inflict the very repression that leads to the inflicting behavior as adults. The *smarter* we get to handle this load, the smarter we get to do Space, and poetry, too. And the more devastating the power of repression becomes, now armed with language, and writing. Slowly, DNA changes to fight this Beast. Love has evolved. We *want* to save the world. We will!

  71. Unfortunately, the military is going to be all over this, like it or not. But that is no worse than here!

  72. Criswell LSP 2009 searchanddiscovery for short term Space dev argument, based upon global weirding/heating/warming SOLUTION. I agree that the long term stuff is not necessary, altho it could be sufficient, reason to do O'Neill.

  73. Curious how they get out of the bushes the moment it seems space travel and settlement will be done outside of government's budget and thus, control.

  74. Is the surface of a planet, such as the Moon, or Earth, the right place for an expanding technological civilization?

  75. If we go extinct at any point in the meantime, probably no other species capable of space travel will emerge.

    Some of the current primate species are roughly where we were shortly before the stone age (primitive tool use, hunting packs, cooperation with wolves). If we suddenly disappear, a new humanoid species may evolve within several million years. (edit: That is, assuming most other species other than us survive whatever makes us disappear.) We went from stone age to space age in under 3 million years.

  76. Elon Musk can get the cost of a plane ticket to Antarctica down to a dollar but that doesn't mean that Antarctica is going to become colonized. Quit trying to jump the gun and get established on the Moon first before you even think of colonizing Mars. Mars is just the Moon with a prettier sky and a LOT harder to get to.

  77. Shouldn't be relevant, but control freak busybodies will consider them relevant anyway.

  78. From an economics standpoint it should be brought up that there is no money being spent IN space (as yet). All the money being spent on any space development is happening on Earth – with the benefit of high paying jobs and taxes increasing the economy here. And most of the actual hardware in place in Earth orbit also generates profits that are also reinvested here. So returns on investment in Space benefit society greatly (boondoggles such as the SLS notwithstanding).

    However using the limited lifespan of the Earth as an argument pushing for Space development NOW is specious, or highly misleading at best. There is no current crisis demanding that we spread life into the solar system or all is lost. Worrying about events millions of years from now will not convince ANYBODY that we need to do this NOW.

  79. These arguments are not relevant to privately-funded space settlement, assuming that Musk, Bezos, and other finance all of this on their own.

  80. You are not wrong, although most people making the argument will point out that the money being spent until very recently (say, the last twenty years) was all government money, so it would not qualify except indirectly as "free people's own money."

    Now, although SpaceX still has a considerable amount of funding from public sources, it could (particularly considering the income from Starlink) probably fund its own development programme with strictly private funds, and so we finally can use this argument; and I imagine that the "solve Earth's problems first" will be losing strength as more private space companies show up in the market and it becomes more and more similar to the airline industry.

  81. Channeling Dan:

    Have you read the High Frontier by Gerard K. O' Neill?

    The physics of it still is rock solid. We have physically sound ways to address all of those concerns and live with near-optimum living conditions in space.

    The economics and over-optimism in public space programs from the 70s on the original books were the flaky part. But things in space launcher territory are getting better, actually.

  82. Earth has not that much time remaining, in relative terms.

    In about a billion years the Sun's natural growth and heating will break "Gaia" (that is, self correcting) climate feedback mechanisms and tip global average temperatures beyond livable conditions, and probably take the planet into a runaway Greenhouse effect, as it happened to Venus a few billions years ago.

    If we go extinct at any point in the meantime, probably no other species capable of space travel will emerge. And sorry, I'm not excited abut the future aeons of hypothetical bacteria living in the crust of frozen planets and moons.

    It's our moral obligation to safeguard Earth's complex life and sentience and make it grow and prosper beyond a single planet. To ensure it continues on living in the uncountable centuries of the far future, and even goes to the stars and fills them with more of itself.

    We are at a special point of history, when we are gaining the tools and means to go to outer space, learn how to live there and actually do it. But at the same time, we are gaining even more tools to wipe us out, with rotten ideologies and better means to lie and deceive ourselves being one of the worst threats.

    In a few decades of diligent work, we can ensure a future of life growing and prospering beyond Earth's expiry dates, beyond those of the Sun itself.

  83. The limiting factor of space conization is health. If parameters such as gravity, space radiation and access to sunlight cannot be fully addressed, there won't be en masse space colonization.

  84. Quicker response:

    Free people can spend their own money as they see fit so STFU or admit that people shouldn’t be free.

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